Celeborn sheathed his sword, slowed his horse, and gestured to Haldir who was riding behind him. At this signal, Haldir raised a horn to his lips and blew three loud blasts, signaling the disengagement of the elven forces. It had not taken much to drive the Orcs away, something that had aroused deep suspicion in Celeborn. A few volleys of arrows, a charge of spears, some scattered sword fights, and then the wretched creatures had fled as though all the wrath of the Valar was about to descend. The elves had suffered minimal casualties that would be healed by the morrow. It had been ridiculously easy, insulting almost, and that did not sit well with Celeborn.
Having lived with Galadriel for so long, Celeborn had learned quickly to evaluate and consider every possible facet of a situation. It was the tendency of a ring-bearer to see the invisible and know the impossible, and in order to stay on the same mental playing field as his wife, Celeborn had been forced to see as she saw and think as she thought. Consequently, when Elladan had brought the news that a company of Orcs had passed to the south, Celeborn had entertained several possibilities and even in the face of Aragorn’s intuition that both armies were connected, Celeborn could not accept it at face value as Elladan and Elrohir could. They had cultivated an implicit trust in Aragorn’s instincts, but Celeborn had learned from harsh experience and several ages that instincts were not always reliable. The White Council’s misplaced trust in Saruman was proof enough of that.
But it was beginning to look as though Aragorn had been right. The Orcs invading Rivendell had retreated far too quickly for the attack to be anything but a delay. A detour. A gambit to draw away the forces of Rivendell from the true threat. Now more than ever, Celeborn wished for Galadriel’s comforting presence. She had not always been with him on the field of war, but he had always been able to feel her mind near at hand. It was an assurance and a promise that no matter what happened, there was always hope. But that power was now gone, and Celeborn found himself aching for Galadriel in a way he had never believed possible. She had only been gone for a little over four years! Such time was as the blink of an eye to an elf, and yet…
"This was too easy. The least they could have done was pretend to fight."
Celeborn shook his head, pushing such thoughts to the back of his mind, and turned his horse to fall into step beside Elladan’s mount. "Their only task was to keep us here so that prisoners could be taken elsewhere," the lord of Lothlórien sighed. "And unfortunately, they were successful as far as the delay went."
"We could do nothing else," Elladan said with quiet indignation.
"No, we could not. Alas, our foe is one step ahead of us. And that is only to be expected, for they have made the first move."
"They have always made the first move," the half-elf murmured. "It seems that our eternal fault is to underestimate the enemy. We never accurately calculate their strength until that strength lays us low."
"Then perhaps it is time for a change of policy," Celeborn said, turning about and motioning Haldir forward. "Go among our kinsmen and find some capable elves who will be able to follow the Orcs from a distance. I wish to know the location of their lair and, if possible, the numbers that face us should we have need to come against them directly."
"By your leave, my lord, I shall follow these beasts myself along with my brothers, Rúmil and Orophin," Haldir answered. "And you may be assured that they will not escape us."
"Thank you, Haldir. But take care! You are not to engage the Orcs unless they give you no choice. Track them only and report back when you have found their hiding place. And before you leave, gather some of the Galadhrim and add a line of archers behind the border guards of Imladris to cover their retreat should the Orcs return."
"It shall be as your order, my lord," Haldir said with a short bow from atop his mount. Nodding respectfully to Elladan, he turned his horse, whispered quiet words to the steed, and hastened toward the northern border.
"I doubt very much that the Orcs will return," Elladan remarked after Haldir had left. "It is a possibility, of course, but after fitting all the pieces of this puzzle together, it seems to me that the capture of Rivendell is not in their immediate plans, else they would not have used their strength to distract us. They would have attacked directly without warning."
"Such thoughts occurred to me as well, yet I will leave nothing to chance." Celeborn pursed his lips, going over his list of possible explanations for what was happening and eventually shaking his head at the number of unknown he encountered. "Tell me more of what your Orc revealed," he finally said, turning toward the oldest son of Elrond.
Elladan frowned. "He was certainly not my Orc."
"The Orc who had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting you, then."
The half-elf grimaced and his eyes narrowed as he recalled the details of his conversation with the creature. "He was a lower-ranking foot soldier and a poor one at that. Once I pinned him at sword point, he gave up the struggle until he recalled the creature that commands these beasts. I believe he had been part of a larger company, and he said as much when I pressed him for information. He was probably a deserter, looking to feast on the spoils of war."
"And he revealed that the intention of his former companions was to make prisoners of the hobbits?" Celeborn questioned. Elladan nodded and the lord of Lothlórien pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Strange. What purpose would they have in capturing hobbits? The simple costs of feeding them in captivity would outweigh any benefit that might come of them!"
Elladan gave a short bark of laughter before sobering quickly. "The Orc did not mention hobbits specifically but rather those members of the Fellowship who traveled the Road," he explained. "In this case, that means Samwise, Meriadoc, and Peregrin, but hobbits were not specifically mentioned. The Fellowship of the Ring was."
"The Orcs are after Fellowship members, then," Celeborn murmured. "Odd. Most Orcs know very little about the role the Fellowship played. Even fewer can identify the Fellowship members. And to want them as prisoners rather than corpses…did he say aught else?"
"That the Fellowship must perish, but they were to be made prisoners first. After learning this, I demanded information on his leader." Elladan’s eyes strayed to his sheathed sword and he grimaced. "When I demanded too much, he surged upward in what appeared to me to be fear. He soiled my blade with his foul blood and I have still not had the opportunity to clean it properly."
"He killed himself?"
Elladan shook his head. "Nay, rather I think he was overcome by a terror so great that his fear for me was forgotten and he could no longer submit to my questions." The half-elf glanced at Celeborn, his deep, piercing eyes troubled. "The one who commands these Orcs is able to instill great fear in them. Never before have I seen such devotion save it be in the Uruk-hai, and many of them were raised by Saruman himself. For a lowly goblin to possess such feelings of fear and loyalty, even if that loyalty is forced…I like it not."
"Are there things about Orcs that you do like?" Celeborn asked, watching Elladan closely and hoping to draw out more of his reactions through jest. Of Elrond’s two sons, Elladan was by far the more perceptive twin, but he also happened to be the most close-mouthed. His confidences extended to his brother—with whom he shared practically everything—Aragorn, and occasionally Arwen. Beyond that circle, those who wished information from Elladan were forced to pry and search for it, and Elladan was not an easy nut to crack. But then, Galadriel had also been rather difficult at times, and Celeborn had always found a way to weasel past her walls.
In response to the question, Elladan laughed quietly and shook his head. "Things about Orcs that I like…" He trailed off and thought for a moment. "Once dead, they do not rise again," he eventually answered. "From my father’s tales of other ages, there are some creatures for whom that is not so."
Celeborn grimaced and nodded, trying to banish some rather unpleasant memories that had abruptly surfaced. "For that small fortune, we should be thankful. And because of this, Orcs fear death as some other creatures might not, which should tell us something of your Orc, or rather, the Orc you met. I find it strange than a goblin would forget immediate peril due to the fear of a superior. What do you draw from this, Elladan? Have you any suspicions?"
"Several, yet they are only intuition and guesswork. I would not weary the lord of Lothlórien with my simple musings." Elladan fell silent and Celeborn revised his opinion of the half-elf. If anything, Elrond’s son was more closemouthed than Galadriel.
"Elladan! Celeborn! How fare our people?"
Celeborn blinked and turned to Elladan. "I do not remember that you gave Arwen leave to assume command of Imladris."
"I had no need to. She usually assumes that responsibility on her own," Elladan said with a grin. He whispered softly to his horse and the stallion stopped as Arwen rode up on Hasufel. "We have driven the forces back, sister. Has there been aught to report in Imladris?"
"Nothing. It seems the attack from the north was the only attack upon your realm," Arwen answered. "Nor have we had any tidings from Elrohir and Estel, though doubtless they have yet far to ride." A note of fear and concern had now entered Arwen’s voice, and she look westward anxiously. "It is as you said, dear brother. The attack upon Rivendell was but a ruse and a distraction. The true danger lies upon the Road."
"Fear not for them, Arwen," Elladan said quietly. "Elrohir and Estel have both ridden into much danger before, and they have the archers of Mirkwood to back them."
"But we know so little about the danger they face," Celeborn commented, directing a rather pointed look at Elladan.
Elladan turned and gave Celeborn a look so familiar that the lord of Lothlórien wondered if he had not taken lessons from Galadriel. "I have told you all that I know," Elladan said quietly.
"But you have not told me all that you suspect."
"Were I to do that, we would be here from now until next year."
"Peace, both of you," Arwen interrupted, moving Hasufel so that she now rode between the two. "It is unfair to begin this conversation without me, for I have not heard what Elladan has to tell. My information has been garnered from Haldir when I can stall him long enough for talk. Come now, and speak with me. Tell me of your suspicions and your facts."
"Exactly what would you know, sister?" Elladan asked, and Celeborn blinked as he caught a subtle shift in the tone of the conversation. To his sharp ears, it sounded almost as though Elladan was preparing for a contest of sorts, and judging from the twinkle in Arwen’s eyes, she was just as eager as her brother for the challenge.
"I would know the reason behind your haste when you road into Rivendell today. Your horse was sorely pressed, and this most recent encounter with the Orcs has not helped him."
"I road swiftly to deliver a message."
"What was this message?"
"That Orcs were moving on the East-West Road and the hobbits were in danger."
"In danger of death or imprisonment?"
"And how came you by this knowledge?"
Celeborn shook his head, slightly amazed at what was taking place. It was a game. Elladan gave only as much information as Arwen’s questions required, and Arwen made her questions so specific and leading that Elladan could not help but give some details away. From their phrasing and the way they anticipated one another, it was obvious this had been done before, and Celeborn wondered if it wasn’t a method of relieving stress. Arwen was no longer dwelling on Aragorn and Elladan was no longer dwelling on his feelings of imminent darkness. Perhaps this was what had occupied the children of Elrond during the long years of the Third Age when the shadow of Sauron pressed close to Imladris.
"An Orc told me," Elladan was saying.
Arwen blinked. "An Orc came up to you and volunteered this information?"
"No, I forced this information from it."
"I see. And what was the nature of this Orc?"
"A weak underling."
"From whence did it hail?"
Now Elladan paused as though debating whether or not to answer this question. Immediately seeing the pause, Arwen checked Hasufel and stopped, fixing dark eyes upon her brother. Celeborn also stopped, wondering why he had failed to ask this simple question. Apparently an advantage to the game that Arwen and Elladan now played was that every tiny detail was examined, and the lord of Lothlórien wondered if maybe he shouldn’t have used this game on Galadriel. But she would have grown irritated at the endless stream of questions, so perhaps it was best that he had relied more on intuition than on interrogation.
"Elladan?" Arwen prompted.
"Mordor," he finally murmured, and it seemed that the game of questions came to an end with this statement. "The Orc was from Mordor."
"Mordor!?" Celeborn exclaimed. This was a new and unwelcome development. All of the Orcs to the north had been Uruk-hai, and that was only to be expected as they were forced to attack in broad daylight. Bur Orcs from Mordor…if that was true and this Orc was the not the only one of his kind to come westward, how many other fell goblins from the destruction of Sauron’s realm had journeyed hither? And how many festered still in the dark Misty Mountains? "How did this Orc come to be here?" the lord of Lothlórien demanded. "Surely it would be impossible for an Orc to escape the watchfulness of Gondor! Beyond that, an Orc would have to pass by Rohan or Lothlórien in order to arrive here, and I can assure you that we have not failed in our vigilance."
"The plains of Rohan are vast, Lord Celeborn," Elladan answered. "It would be difficult to patrol their entire expanse so effectively that none passed without Eomer’s knowledge. And as for Lothlórien, your numbers diminish and you have not the power of Nenya to sense darkness, much as we now lack Vilya. It would not be terribly difficult for a single Orc—or even a small company of Orcs—to slip through your guard. And as for Gondor, Anduin flows past many shores and the darkness of Mordor still lies heavy upon the eastern bank. The escape of Orcs into the Misty Mountains is not inconceivable."
"You have given this much thought," Arwen observed, her voice quiet and reflective. "And I can see no fault in your reasoning. I wish it were not so, but it seems now to me that possibly many Orcs from Mordor may have found their way to the mountains. Perhaps this is the reason for their dark shadow. And is it possible that not only Orcs but men have come hither?"
"I see nothing to prevent them," Elladan said. "But I also see little reason for men to make the journey, for many hailed from Harad and they would see no purpose in traveling so far west when they have a desert of their own to conquer. But as you say, it is possible that some of the men have come here to trouble us."
"That may also explain this master who filled an Orc with such fear that he impaled himself upon your blade," Celeborn murmured, his eyes thoughtful. "Perhaps one of Mordor’s commanding captains has come to plague us, and it is he who lays the strategy these Orcs follow."
"I cannot fault your conclusions," Elladan said. "It may be that you have it aright. Yet I wonder what captain would wait five years before seeking vengeance. Such a passage of time is long in the world of men, though it seem like naught to the elves."
"It would take a man of immense patience as well as immense cunning," Celeborn answered. "And in this, we face a dangerous threat."
"Nor does it help that the Orcs have been given leave to breed and secure their strength while we have sat idle," Arwen spoke up, her voice sharp. "Why have you not dealt with the mountains before?"
"We knew not their strength, nor did we know the location of their stronghold, their plans, their weaponry, or their leadership. We still know not these things. It would have been folly to attack them, and it is currently folly to pursue them. Understand, Arwen, that we no longer have the strength in numbers that once graced this haven. We no longer have the protection of Vilya and the greatest of the elf lords departed West with father. Glorfindel no longer rides the roads and Gildor no longer sends warnings from the Wilds." Elladan’s hand tightened into a fist and Celeborn felt himself edging his horse away at the feel of frustration emanating from Elrond’s son. "We have not the soldiers, the arms, or the leadership that you have in Gondor, Arwen. We can do nothing but wait for the doom that is ours!"
There was silence after that, and it was some time before any dared speak. When at last the stillness was broken, it was done so by Arwen, her voice soft and apologetic. "Forgive me, dearest brother," she whispered, turning her head so that none could see her face. "I had forgotten how much has been lost to Rivendell. I have been blinded by the beauty of Minas Tirith and the newfound strength of Gondor. I can not see the fading of my own people."
"The fault is not yours," Elladan sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. "Your life has led you down a different path, and for that you should be grateful. For now, at least, the sorrows that will come may be held at bay. And I am sorry, Arwen, for speaking so to you."
"Do not apologize," Elrond’s daughter said firmly. "We are all distressed by what has happened and what we have seen. Let us cease this ill talk and be thankful that Rivendell is safe for now. And let us pray that tidings from the Road may be as good."
The three fell into silence then, each lost in thought. Arwen’s words rang through Celeborn’s mind, but he could not bring himself to find hope in them. He had lived too long and endured too much for that. Elrohir, Aragorn, and Thranduil might ride with the speed of the eagles, but Celeborn sensed that plans had been laid long in advance. They would not reach the hobbits in time. Legolas and Gimli were just as likely to share their fate. With a sigh, Celeborn shook his head and turned his far-seeing eyes to the west. It seemed that the celebration in honor of the Ring’s destruction might now turn into desperate struggle and a time of sorrow for all the evil that had not been destroyed. And the thought occurred to Celeborn that no matter what they did, the evil they now faced would probably always remain.
* * * *
"Legolas, I think we may have a problem."
The elf shook his head and grimaced. "I will say this for you, Gimli. You truly have an eye for the subtle details that might escape the notice of others, and your skills in analytical thinking are beyond compare."
The dwarf grunted and backed up a bit, watching the Orcs closely as they streamed out of the forest. He and Legolas had already engaged them in battle, but with the steady trickle of foes from the trees and the fact that they were now completely surrounded, Gimli and Legolas had both backed off and now watched as their enemies gathered. The Orcs had not pursued them when they retreated abruptly and had merely continued to gather, an act that had sent the wheels in Gimli’s head turning vainly for an explanation. It didn’t help that Legolas seemed to be at an equal loss. The elf had dismounted and the two now stood shoulder to elbow, a defiant if hopeless challenge to the growing number of Orcs that surrounded the group of travelers. Behind them, Arod snorted and neighed, his voice colored by fear. Further back, the hobbits were also moving toward the elf and dwarf.
"Why do they not charge?" Legolas murmured. His bow was strung, but he did not shoot. What good did it do to strike one leaf in a forest?
"It seems as though they are waiting for something," Gimli answered, backing up even further and feeling Legolas move with him. He’d been thinking about that as well, and his thoughts had not been encouraging. There were no archers among the Orcs, or if there were, they had not made their presence known. As for weapons, he had seen a few rapiers and a smattering of knives, but most of their enemies seemed to sport staffs and clubs. "Legolas, I do not think they mean to kill us."
The prince shot him a look that clearly questioned the dwarf’s sanity. "And I suppose this is their way of inviting us to sup with them?"
"Look at their weapons, foolish elf! These are not weapons of death but weapons of restraint. They do not mean to kill us, they mean to take us prisoner!"
Legolas blinked and then studied the Orcs more closely. "You are right. They have no bows, only a few knives and swords…" He trailed off and looked back at Arod, a thoughtful expression on his face.
"Legolas? Gimli?" a worried voice behind them called.
"Stand at our backs," Gimli ordered, sparing a moment to glance at the frightened hobbits. They Orcs were now advancing with painstaking slowness, making certain that no gaps were left in their line through which their victims might escape. The beleaguered companions drew together, and Gimli’s anger was forced up a notch when he heard sniffling from a small hobbit child. For her part, Rosie seemed to be possessed of an admirable courage, but Elanor clung to Pippin and buried her face in his chest, shaking with a fright that was grievous to see.
"Any plans?" Merry hissed, battling with his pony for control. The poor animal was half-rearing with terror and if the Orcs charged, it was doubtful that Merry would be able to fight for he would be too busy with the horse.
"I could clear a path for you," Legolas murmured, seeming to speak to himself. "There would only be a few seconds for you to escape and you would have to force your way through much of it. But on the northeast side of the Road, the line of enemies is thinner. Arrows would scatter them, Arod could press through them, and if Gimli leads the charge, you might succeed in breaking through this siege."
"But you would be left here," Pippin protested. "Absolutely not, Legolas. It will be all or none of us."
Gimli nodded his head in agreement and shot a look at the prince that was intended to reprimand him for even considering the idea, but he stopped. The elf was looking back at him, and in his gaze was a wordless plea. Legolas jerked his head in the direction of the hobbits, and Gimli sighed. He knew that particular look, and he knew it was hopeless to protest. If the elf did not gain his agreement, he would go ahead with the plan anyway. And in truth, Legolas was right. Their first priority was the hobbits, and if that meant a sacrifice was required, so be it. But the dwarf would sooner shave off his beard than allow his best friend to make that sacrifice alone. "I will not leave your side," Gimli said firmly, sending a stern glare in the elf’s direction.
Now Legolas looked as though he were about to protest and Gimli could see the indecision and hesitation racing through his bright eyes, but at length, he simple smiled sadly and gave a quick nod, apparently realizing the futility of arguing with the dwarf. "Listen closely, all of you," Legolas whispered, directing his words primarily to the hobbits. "On my signal, Gimli and Arod shall charge the Orcs near that copse of trees. I shall cover their attack with arrows and hopefully we shall create a distraction. Sam and Merry, you will rush the Orcs as soon as we have engaged them in battle." The elf glanced over his shoulder at the mounted hobbits, making certain he had their complete and undivided attention. "Rosie will ride directly behind you and you must shield her. Pippin, hand Elanor to her and you shall ride rearguard. Drive through their line with as much speed as you can. Do not tarry and do not pause to battle your opponents. Your only goal is escape. As soon as you are clear, make straight for the Ford. Do not slow down and do not look back. Ride as hard as you can away from this place."
"Pippin!" Legolas hissed, twisting around and flicking his eyes at Elanor who huddled fearfully within the hobbit’s arms. "Do not argue with me. We have no time for it!"
"Fear not for us, Master Took," Gimli added, shoving down the spasm of worry and adrenaline that began racing through his system. "Remember, young hobbit, that I shall be with the elf. No harm will come to him. And no harm will come to me."
A harsh voice redirected their attention to the Road, and the surrounded friends turned as one to greet this new threat. Gimli felt his hands tightening on the haft of his axe and he forced himself to relax. It would not do for him to use his energy now when it would be needed later. At his side, he heard Legolas take a deep breath and he recognized it for a calming method the elf had used several times before. Confident that they were as prepared as they would ever be, the dwarf moved forward and fixed a defiant glare on the great Orc captain who had stepped away from the milling circle of foes.
"Surrender?" Gimli echoed, filling his voice with as much derision as he could muster. "Legolas, this foul, filth-ridden creature wishes us to surrender. What think you of that?"
"I think he fears to take on the prowess of an elf and the boldness of a dwarf, my friend," Legolas responded, drawing his notched arrow back slightly. "But perhaps that is true of all such lowly beings. They cannot endure the battles we would give them. Certainly such meager forces as they have here are no match for us. Almost they do not know club from bow."
"Yes, you have it aright. They are a pitiful, weakened, groveling race, are they not? Ruined, twisted…so unlike the elves who sired them long ago," Gimli said with a sorrowful nod, hoping Legolas would not be too offended by the reference. Perhaps it had been unnecessary to bring up the origin of the Orcs, but few things had the power to enrage the twisted creatures of Sauron like a comparison between them and the Eldar.
Probably realizing this, Legolas stiffened but did not protest. Instead, he picked the idea up and ran with it even as the Orcs were beginning to murmur around them with murderous anger. "You speak with great wisdom, Gimli. Verily, it is difficult to see that there are any similarities between Elves and Orcs. One race is strong while the other is weak, and I believe we all know which label can be attributed to which group."
"Yes, my friend, there can be no doubt about that. See how the Orcs tremble before us." One of the advantages of the continuous verbal sparing matches between the two friends was the ability to instantly conjure biting insults. Both Legolas and Gimli were now quite adept at spontaneous libel, and they had found it to be very useful for angering opponents and robbing them of reason. Not that Orcs have much reason to begin with, Gimli thought to himself with a grim smile.
"This is your last warning," the Orc spat, clearly enraged.
"No, it is yours," Legolas returned coldly, and at that moment, he released his arrow. The Orc captain fell before he truly knew what had happened, but the elf did not waste time to celebrate his kill. His arrows were flying swiftly now, picking off Orcs with a speed that could not be followed by mortal eyes. A narrow corridor gradually opened up, and without slackening his attack, the elf shouted the signal.
"Now! Arod, revio! Noro ter i yrch a drego an Imladris!"
Upon the elf’s command, the great war-horse of Rohan leaped forward, albeit he seemed to do so reluctantly, and charged the Orcs, neighing a fierce challenge and lowering his head to build up speed. Left with little alternative, Gimli raced after him. Leaving the elf’s side was one of the hardest things the dwarf had ever done, but he forced himself to do it. The Orcs before them were swept with confusion and fear as Arod met their ranks and reared, lashing out with hooves and teeth, but Gimli could see the Orcs behind the hobbits and elf out of the corner of his eye and they were beginning to surge forward as a response to this sudden attack on their comrades. He could only hope that Legolas would break off his frontal assault in time to turn and meet them.
Reaching the startled Orcs and sounding a dwarven roar of fury, Gimli’s axe quickly met with flesh and he hewed down the few Orcs who had thought to close the gap that Arod and Legolas’s arrows had made. The horse was already halfway through the line and fighting viciously. The Orcs seemed to be at a loss as to how to confront the creature, and Legolas’s continuing onslaught of arrows was certainly not helping them come to a speedy conclusion. Then Arod surged forward and broke through, whinnying triumphantly and kicking out with his back legs to send two more Orcs crumpling to the ground. The horse turned once and neighed, almost sounding as though he bid them farewell, and then took off down the Road with the speed of his sires, vanishing quickly around a bend in the distance.
One clear, four to go, Gimli noted, leaping aside as he countered a staff with his axe while a club swung down behind him. Legolas’s arrows had stopped and the dwarf hoped that the elf was now looking after his own safety, but he was too busy to pause and find his friend in the battle. Sensing the approach of hobbit ponies, Gimli swung harder, faster, and then threw himself out of the way as Sam and Merry swept through, both brandishing their swords. Rosie followed close behind, holding a crying Elanor and shielding the child with her body as best she could while clutching tightly to the pony’s reigns. Pippin brought up the rear, slashing at the attacking Orcs as he went, and crying for greater speed. The Orcs who had closed the path made by Arod were caught off guard by the fierce attack of Sam and Merry and soon either skewered by hobbit blade or swept away by the press of the charge. Pippin guarded well their backs as one Orc fell headless and another screamed amid the blood that erupted from his neck, pierced by the Took’s sword. With a cry of victory, the hobbits broke free of the encircling Orcs and spurred their ponies onward. They were through!
Gimli heaved a great sigh of relief at the same time that he tried to backtrack and join his elven friend, but the press of Orcs was too great and he found himself cutoff. In the few glimpses he managed to catch of the prince, Gimli noted that Legolas was now using his knife as well as a thin sword he’d managed to steal from one of the Orcs. It appeared that he was holding his own, but given the number of foes they faced, that wouldn’t last long. Gimli was unsure of how long he himself could last, and he redoubled his efforts to reach Legolas. They stood a better chance together than they did apart. Still, Gimli was forced to admit that it truly didn’t matter what they did. Side by side or separated by Orcs, defeat was still defeat. And with numbers like this, defeat was inevitable.
Gimli froze and was very nearly decapitated as a result. Ducking beneath a sword and blocking two clubs, the dwarf turned around and paled. Merry and Pippin were charging back in, hoping to create an avenue of escape for Gimli and Legolas. Their courage was admirable and Gimli felt a flush of pride for these hobbits, but it was a fool’s move. They could not hope to prevail against such odds and it would have been better if they’d kept going with Sam and Rosie, who were thankfully nowhere in sight. Beyond that, Merry’s horse was giving him problems again and Gimli winced as the pony nearly carried the poor hobbit straight into a swinging club. The Brandybuck ducked in time, but this could not continue.
Deciding that rejoining Legolas would have to wait a moment longer—the elf was still holding his own, after all—Gimli started hacking his way toward the hobbits, yelling at them to back off. It didn’t do any good, of course, for hobbits could be just as stubborn as elves when they set their mind to something. In fact, now that Gimli was shouting, the hobbits were beginning to drive toward him.
"We’re coming, Gimli!" Pippin called.
Gimli knew exactly what Gandalf would say in this situation. Fool of a Took, rang through his mind, and the dwarf was sorely tempted to make liberal use of that phrase while adding the name Brandybuck to include Merry. But before he could do so, a sudden yell froze his heart and he watched in horror as Merry’s pony reared up, fighting the reins and dumping the hobbit onto the ground. Pippin cried out and tried to reach his friend even as a swarm of Orcs descended upon the fallen hobbit. Numbers pressed both Gimli and Pippin back, and through the chaos, the faint cry of a stricken hobbit managed to reach their ears.
"Merry!" Gimli raged, trying to push forward but finding himself blocked. He turned back, searching desperately for Legolas in the hopes that the elf might be able to do something, but what he saw made him completely forget Merry’s predicament.
Legolas was having problems of his own as a hard blow to his elbow caused his rapier to fly from his hand and a follow-up strike disarmed him of his knife. Weaponless, the prince managed to dodge the next two blows and deflect a third, but even elven agility could not prevail against the odds he faced. A well-timed strike caught him in the back of the head, and with a startled cry, the elf staggered and fell.
Time seemed to grind to a halt and for one terrible moment, Gimli stood frozen by a deadly fear and a dreadful rage. Then the world snapped back into place and the dwarf let out a great roar, swinging his axe with a wrath that had many of the lesser Orcs racing for safety. Blinded by his mad need to reach the elf, Gimli fought with a fury that might have caused Smaug to back down. But even as his rage overtook his mind, one thought kept resonating within the dwarf. They were lost. He would never be able to save Legolas. Merry had already fallen. It was only a matter of time until Pippin went down, and Gimli could not hold out against such a press of foes. At this point in time, only an act of the Valar could save them, but if that was to be the way of things, then so be it. It would never be said that Gimli went meekly. Channeling all his hatred into the swing of his axe, Gimli cried aloud and plunged himself recklessly into the battle.
Arod, revio! Noro ter i yrch a drego an Imladris!—Arod, fly! Ride through the orcs and flee to Imladris!
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.